Frightened Rabbit

Little boy, come to me quickly. This has been an interminable wait. My arms ache to hold you. You fade in and out of reality to me. In some moments you have a face, a personality, a name. In others I am cold and alone and my embrace finds nothing but blankets and repetition.  

I imagine you Scottish and moody, clinging to that which makes you feel, running at breakneck speed down hills into lush fields after grasshoppers, laughing, the next moment your faced gnarled up and glowering at the turn of a shadow. I want to breathe life into your bones, and look into your eyes, and press you forehead to forehead, come to me now. 

Someone’s going to break your heart one day. 

My favorite thing is to not exist. I want to tell you how. If you can pick up a guitar. If you can learn how to type, or paint. If you can sing and become nothing but a voice. If you can climb a tree and become the wind. Put on your favorite shades and sit on a bench in a theme park and watch families traipse past in the middle of their own troubles, their tiny bubbles of dropped water bottles and hunger and tickets and trinkets and sweat and blisters and gluttony and giggles and farce, and you are there with them, next to them, a part of them, until they are out of earshot and eyeshot and persist only in your mind. 

I would that you take the best of me. I am impressive, on my best days. A wallflower at my worst, and that’s not all that bad a thing. 

Your mother has you now, tucked safely inside. Tomorrow you will ride a boat maybe and not even know it. She will smell the ocean and you will smell the fluid imbued with the scent of the ocean and her breakfast and your own offal and the combination will formulate a certain chemistry in your brain that you’ll never be rid of. I would apologize for it but when you’re my age you wouldn’t change a milliliter of it. So you’re welcome, I suppose.  

Can I tell you about boats. About water displacement and Archimedes and the buoyancy of fat. I want to tell you easy to digest falsities about how most of your body heat dissipates from your head, only to tell you later in life this was just a scam to get you to wear a toboggan. I want to raise you far away from nowhere, which itself is far away from anyplace else, a woods, a mountain, a wooded moutain where you will be alone with me and your mother and our dogs and the broken sky and the shakey pines and the mountain lions and rabid curious raccoons and you will be safe, invisible in the void. I can’t protect you forever, but I will try my best. 

Let’s go to Alaska. Let’s go to Siberia where we don’t speak the language and we can learn to live together, after all I don’t really know a thing, I am just an uncut wound yet to bleed. I will bundle you in swaddles and swaddle you in bundles and we’ll slay an elk and disembowel it so I can tuck you inside to last the night. Yes that’s right I would kill for you, I would make shelter from the most innocent of things just to shield you from undue sun. I will carry you until my arms fall off. 

I hope you feel safe in sleep. I want to grant you an affection for the subconscious existence as early as possible. I don’t know if it’s possible to nurture a true waking passion until your nightself has access to God. I will give it to you. I will make you know you’re protected, that in dreams you are free to explore, that nothing can hurt you, that in dreams you aren’t even you, but a ghostly voyeur, unbound, encouraged, armored, brave, insightful, kind, capable, and most of all a font of resilient passion, unencumbered by pain, by fate, by loss, by love, by the most common or rare of human faults.  I want you to know in dreams that the guidance of your heart cannot lead you astray, that should you be tugged chestward into volcanoes or hurricanes that at least with your eyes closed you will always be reborn, so that when you follow these same paths in waking life and the future seems uncertain and you are at your lowest you might remember the lessons of your inner sanctum, and follow them, to death or to life beyond.

I want to have a pizza with you. Because pizza might be the greatest thing there is. 




Uggghh. The words are not coming fast enough. I need to write on something else for a minute, because this section of the novel is frustrating me. 

I’ve had this article saved in my reading list for months now as possible blog fodder, an article about Stephen Miller, the fucking nightmare child born of hatred and male pattern baldness who is one of Trump’s top advisors. His uncle wrote this article for Politico that outlines their collective family history as migrant Jews from what is now Belarus who ultimately avoided the Holocaust—only seven people from their village survived it.

I’m not sure why I saved this article, why I wanted to write about it. It seems almost irrelevant to me today. Trump himself is famously of immigrant ancestry. His wife’s family used the same chain migration process he demonizes to become American citizens. Hypocrisy is literally of no concern to this administration. In fact, it’s practically encouraged. Like a street gang who wants you to kick a guy’s ass before you can join, to be a true Trump acolyte you have to prove your mettle by demonstrating your commitment to bias. This is not a secret. This administration does not care about fairness or justice, and they are none too concerned with appearing to care, either.

I’ve all but given up on changing anyone’s mind. It seems we’re beyond appearances. We are not concerned with integrity. Integrity does not win games, or elections. People support this president, not despite his overt, amoral rapacity, but because of it. Gluttony is sexy. Charity is for pussies. Empathy is for fairy tales and fables, Aesop and Grimm. This is the real world, and the real world is ending, so it’s grab what you can and fuck the rest.

Maybe I was interested in this because it’s another example of how liberals are missing the point. There is no conservative out there who would read such an article and have their eyes opened, like oh my gawd! Really? Stephen Miller wouldn’t exist if his own policies had been implemented back in 1907? Well I certainly can’t support him now! No. They do not care about Stephen Miller or his policies, because his policies do not affect them in any immediate or tangible way.  In fact, I would wager most conservatives do not know who Stephen Miller is. The required emotional leap between my own suffering and the suffering of others does not exist. And I don’t think that’s a conservative problem, I think it’s a human problem, or at the very least an American problem, a modern, smartphone, NFL, American problem. 

There was also a recent article published in the (apparently) liberal Washington Post (owned by the richest man in the world) by a group of Yale researchers who said they converted conservatives to liberals by making them feel less afraid before asking them politically charged questions. Which, congratulations. You could’ve set up the study in the opposite fashion, changing liberals to conservatives by reminding them how many people die from the common influenza virus every year before questioning them about the immigrant caravan. It’s not a question of whether or not fear dictates how willing people are to share their good fortune with others. That question was adequately answered by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes hundreds of years ago. The real question is how afraid people want to be. 

Well that doesn’t make a lick of sense, you might say. Who chooses to be afraid? Again, not the right question. We’re choosing not to achowledge our fears, our stresses, our difficulties. If we don’t admit them, we can’t address them. And once again, this is not just conservatives, this is an American thing. Another recent article in the (apparently) liberal New York Times claims loneliness is the root cause for people clinging to extreme political ideologies in this country. Because we’re a transitive country now, we don’t have a home base anymore, a sense of community based on location, so we join virtual communities, we represent ourselves with avatars which can hide all the uncomfortable things about ourselves that we don’t like to share, including our anxieties and fears. So we don’t share them. And they don’t get dealt with, never aired and never exterminated, and so like any common pest, they multiply in the dark.

I’m not trying to say the only way to return to sanity is to go back in time to a place where we talk to our neighbors again, or live in the same towns our entire lives.  I’m saying we need to find the bravery to talk about the things that scare us, even if we don’t have to, to choose bravery, to name our demons and accept the embarrassment that might come with it but in the process allow people with more experience to inform us, so we don’t have to be so afraid.

Hobbes. That might be a good name for a boy. Middle name, anyway. We’re having a boy, did I mention? It’s a boy. There’s a lil pecker in my wife’s belly. And some balls. Boys are gross.



Gut Puncher

I’m having a baby. My wife is pregnant. What is the correct phrasing. We are having a baby. She is having a baby, and also I am having a baby, and together we will be parents. I will be a father, she will be a mother. The baby will be a baby. Oh, this baby? That’s my baby. This is our baby. We have made a baby. 

Actually, she is making a baby. I’m just watching. 

 Just watching.

Just watching.

I’ve been an uncle many, many times now. I’m good with babies. I like holding babies, like it when they fall asleep in my arms. Also throwing babies. I like to toss babies up into the air and catch them. I feel like this is good life experience to get early on, for a baby. To be launched upward as though gravity does not apply to you, only to experience the brief but thrilling plummet of your inevitable fate. 



I’m thankful for this happening now. I’m getting old. Which is to say, I’m feeling old, which is to say I’m feeling overly experienced. Lacking in surprise. Uncharted territory. I like my routines as much as the next person, or maybe more than most. They are safe, predictable, and they require very little thought, but relying on them too heavily makes them bleed into areas where they shouldn’t necessarily apply. There’s not a lot that happens to me anymore that I’m not (perhaps erringly) convinced that I already possess the previous experience to deal with the situation efficiently, quickly, with very little thought.

 Very little.

Very little.

So this should prove to be a wonderful shake-up. I’ve uncled, but I’ve never parented. Sure, I’ve pet-parented. Our dog has been helpfully waking us up at two in the morning fairly often, of late, as if to get us used to it. But the difference between dogs and people is that dogs level off relatively quickly. A year, maybe two, you know what to expect. They become routine, their personalities only subtly evolving. Old dog, new tricks? Perhaps old dog, new tics. Cooper doesn’t like going on walks anymore. We can’t figure out why. But that’s the only major development in Cooper parenting for the past year, two, maybe three. Otherwise he’s the same nervous energetic barking seat-stealer he’s been for five years or more.

This baby thing, I’m expecting, will be throwing me for loops on the regular for years and years. 

 Baby thing.

Baby thing.

Gretchen wants to find out the sex of the baby. I’ve always thought it would be more fun to wait. So we’re going to find out the sex of the baby. We went to a wedding this past weekend and the groom, whom we knew, was being careful before the wedding not to accidentally walk outside and see the bride in her dress before the right moment. I told Gretchen later on, during the reception, that this is why I wanted to wait on knowing the sex of the baby.  Because I remembered that moment from our wedding, where I took special pains not to see the dress or see her in it until she walked out towards me as I stood up in front of my friends and family, waiting to marry her. It’s that special sort of reveal you don’t get the privilege of having too often in life, one that kicks you in the emotional gut, in a good way. 

She smiled and said, “Nice try.” 

 Nice try.

Nice try.

Anyhow, I’m realizing now I’m actually pretty okay with finding out the sex early. Because that will only be one of the innumerable eye-opening, gut-punching moments of parenthood. And most of them we won’t get a choice as to when they happen, anyway, so we may as well take this opportunity a little early, on our own schedule. 

We’re only in the second trimester. She’s only in the second trimester. Due in May. We’re having a baby. I’m having a baby. 

I also don’t know how to adjust my usual blog voice to these circumstances. Mostly it’s doom and gloom, here. Afflicted with a reliably bloodshot pessimism. How do happy people talk? Is it emojis? Should I emoji? Sure, let’s give it a go.





This is not the entry I wanted to write next. I have a lot to write about that I can’t write about yet, a lot going on, a lot on my plate, and it’s getting close to two months since the last entry in this blog, which I didn’t even write. I want to respond to that entry. I have too much going on.

It’s a Saturday. I’m supposed to be grading but it’s hard to grade on a day like today. I used to live in Pittsburgh. Tree of Life is off of Shady Avenue, I’d drive by it every time I went to Squirrel Hill. I don’t want to think about this today.

Fucking AR-15.

I got asked to help out at a tournament at the golf course, because they had to fire somebody and two other people quit and they’re shorthanded, so. I woke up late today. We bought blackout curtains for the bedroom, in response to the city finally fixing the broken streetlight in front of our house but replacing the busted normal halogen light bulb with a fully functional neutron laser. Then my phone died overnight because I again forgot to clean out the charging port, which occasionally gets clogged with pocket lint and golf course dust and animal fuzz, and so I slept until 10:00 a.m. and because I was behind schedule didn’t wake myself up by reading the (horrible, awful, no-good) news like I usually do, so I didn’t know about the Pittsburgh shooting until my wife told me.

They’re getting progressively closer to my exact location, it seems. Tracing my past lives, narrowing in on me. Orlando night club, I used to live in Orlando, never really went downtown, though. Church outside New Braunfels, well New Braunfels was essentially San Marcos, really, it felt like right in our back yard. This one, though. About a mile and a half from our first apartment in Pittsburgh.

Savannah, y’all best be taking cover.

I sprayed down golf carts with a hose with three holes in it as fast as I could, with the holes in the old, cracked hose spraying water into the air, and I’d walk through the spray and get my feet and legs wet if I wasn’t paying attention, and I wasn’t, mostly, because it was a shotgun start, meaning everybody scatters to their various starting holes at the beginning of the tournament and everyone starts at the same time (presumably to the sound of a shotgun which would echo across the whole course) and then they sort of play musical chairs around the course until they’ve played all the holes, but then this also means they all finish at about the same time, so suddenly there’s seventy golf carts to wash and put away, and there isn’t much time to pay attention. Which was fine. I worked as fast as I could because the faster I worked the less I could think, but even now my socks are still damp. The skies were gray all day.

You know that feeling when you catch yourself doing something utterly menial like dumping warm beer out of three half-empty cans at once so that the trash bag doesn’t leak nasty trash liquid all over you when you pull it out of the bin, and there’s some degree of satisfaction to doing even the menial job correctly, at least correctly by your own standards, but then you remember it doesn’t matter at all because somewhere else in the world people are getting shot and dying in what is literally supposed to be a sanctuary, a safe haven, and there are now funerals to plan and relatives to notify, and if you went to one of these funerals and stayed after because you didn’t actually know the person, you just used to live nearby and wanted to show some support, and you tried to help out in a community-affirming sort of way by cleaning up after the wake or whatever, and someone else cleaning up beside you picked up three half-empty cans of warm beer or soda or water and threw them in a trash can without dumping them first, and you said to them, You know, if you dump them out first you don’t have to worry about nasty trash water spilling out of the bag when you take it out of the bin later, they would have every right, nay, the duty, to punch you repeatedly in the throat?

Eleven dead, as of now. AR-15 and a couple handguns. All Jews must die.

How did my country get swallowed up in so much hate? Haven’t I been here, living here, this whole time? How did this happen under my watch?



Response From My Pro-Gun Friend

Hi Aaron,

I recently found your blog post entitled “Inherently Dangerous,” and I believe it was written to me about my views on gun control, views which I know are the polar opposite of yours. If your blog post wasn’t about me, feel free to disregard this, and please pardon my vanity! If it is indeed written about me and my beliefs, first off, let me please thank you for the time that you spent crafting your post. Regardless of the disparity between our viewpoints, the only outcomes of civil, constructive debate like we are engaged in are a better understanding of each other and a greater opportunity to learn from one another. Second, thank you for considering me to be very intelligent! That is not often a compliment I receive, so I really appreciate it when I do. I will be responding in letter form, compared to the op-ed style piece you wrote, which is much more eloquent, I might add. I’ll address each point individually, in order as they appear in your post.

First things first, I will start off by agreeing with you – I do understand what you want to tell me and what you’ve already told me, and I admire your extremely opposite position, because like you, I do believe the only way gun violence can truly be ended is if all guns are removed from public access. More about that below.

I am indeed guilty of casually posting easier to digest memes that espouse my beliefs, without doing my homework first. I too add to the noise that so many resent on Facebook, because it’s easy. It may not be right, but like you mention, I’m tired of being blamed for the various massacres that have occurred in recent years across our nation. But I can do better, and I should do better.

I would like to clarify, or question rather, your critique of one article I shared at some point in the last several months from the Washington Times. You mention turning a blind eye to authors of articles, or the publications of those articles, and refer to this Times article that posits that books and ideas are more dangerous than guns. You seem to take this concept in the most literal form, which we both know is not how that concept is intended, nor has been since it was first penned in 1839 in its original form, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” What I don’t understand is why you disagree with what I assumed to be a widely accepted fact, that man’s ability to put pen to paper is often more dangerous than the weapons he makes.

Mein Kampf. The Nuremberg Laws. Order No. 227. The Soviet Five-Year Plan. The 9/11 Commission. The 16th Amendment. The Controlled Substances Act. Each were products of pen put to paper. Each were far more inherently dangerous than the weapons of their respective times.

I admit, I haven’t spent much time doing my homework on your political beliefs, but I realize that it must have been much easier to assume mine, given the frequency of my posts and the infrequency of yours. This helps to confirm one of my dreaded suspicions; that I am an “over sharer” which I assume can’t be a good thing in today’s day and age. Now, seeing as how you identify as a democratic socialist, I can assume that there are likely many more issues that we hold opposite opinions on, but I always remind myself that your viewpoints are held only with the most innate desire for peace and prosperity for our nation, as well as the world. I was raised conservative, but have moved into the libertarian mindset a few years after moving off to college; typical, right? I hold many Christian beliefs, but I try to keep most of them out of my political viewpoints, as I believe that just as our Creator endowed us free will, our government should as well (i.e. whatever floats your boat, as long as it doesn’t sink mine). I hope that helps clear a few more things up.

Regarding the video that proposes the four cardinal firearms rules as the best answer to decreasing gun violence, I can see how it comes across as crass. I think in some regards, however, that the commentator intends it that way, likely attempting to point out that in the past, more in this nation had a closer relationship with firearms, and therefore a deeper understanding and respect for their power. Instead, guns are viewed by our news media as the bane of our modern existence, while Hollywood simultaneously glorifies them and profits endlessly from films, TV shows, and video games that depict violent acts more gruesomely today than ever before. More on that later.

You are correct, those four firearms rules wouldn’t have stopped the Santa Fe shooter, but as you also agreed, that horrible event would have been prevented had the irresponsible father of the shooter locked up his guns, effectively barring his son’s access to them. One must also wonder how much that father taught his son to respect firearms and to only ever use them as a means of self-defense. One thing that the four firearms rules assume in order to maintain relative safety around guns, is that other laws already put into place by our government are to be followed and, here’s the kicker, enforced. Had local law enforcement agencies (at least three of which I’m aware of) reported even one of the 32 documented complaints and citations about him to the NICS, the Parkland shooter never would have been able to buy a gun, let alone inflict the damage he did that day.

Now, let’s jump into the Australia Model discussion. Your math is mind-boggling, only because I’m awful at math and have a difficult time following, but I don’t dispute your figures, and I won’t ever dispute when someone draws the correlation between the number of guns in a country vs. the number of gun deaths in that country. Like you point out, it’s simple math: more guns equals more gun deaths. Period. End of story.

I do have some numbers of my own, however: 500,000 to 3,000,000 – that is the range of defensive gun uses (DGUs) every year in the US, found in a study ordered by the CDC under the Obama administration. Applying the average of this range over the last 10 years brings us to well over 17 million DGUs, compared with 4.3 million violent crimes (murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) over the same period. This leaves one to wonder how many more violent crimes would have occurred if the populace was left unarmed? How many more could have been prevented if the victims were properly trained on how to use a firearm and carried one on their person? Furthermore, are the lives saved by these DGUs less important than the 1,091 lives lost in mass shootings in the US since 1966? Also, forget not that over 98% of mass shootings occur in gun-free zones.

Let’s bring this down to a smaller scale. I carry a gun daily, to prevent myself and anyone around me from becoming a victim of violent crime. If you (not actually you. You're a decent human being) move to put me or anyone around me in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death, I will do everything in my power to shoot or otherwise incapacitate you in order to end the threat that you pose. If that results in your death, so be it. This is why I agree with you when you say more guns equal more gun deaths. But that’s the thing no one seems to realize: in an armed nation, violent criminals will be injured or die by the guns the citizenry defend themselves with, and rightly so. If you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. We live in a dangerous world with criminals who like to play those stupid games, just like generations before us.

We all know that local law enforcement budgets aren’t where they should be in this country, nor does it appear their competency is, either. Why then would we want to forcibly disarm a populace that is already equipped and motivated to defend themselves, and even encouraged to be? We know that criminals are violent, and that won’t ever change. If our police take an average of seven minutes to respond to a call, what exactly are the defenseless citizenry supposed to do in the meantime? But I digress . . . back to the Australian model.

I have several problems with the Australian model, though. First, it sought to ban semi-automatic rifles and repeating shotguns, which, in the US in 2015, accounted for less than 3% (all types of rifles) and less than 4% (all types of shotguns) of firearms-related homicides. That leaves handguns to account for over 90% of firearms related homicides per year, which are legal in Australia.

Over the 22 years after this ban, cloaked as a “buy back,” was enacted, only one third of Australia’s firearms have been turned in to the government, which obviously leaves a whopping 66% still in civilian hands. If we were to replicate this same outcome in the US, we’d be left with over 214 million firearms still in civilian hands. And gun violence still occurs in Australia. The only way to truly eradicate gun violence is to eradicate gun ownership, which, we’ve proven, isn’t possible. Going further down this line of thought, who exactly do you think would decide to follow such a law? This may sound like an old argument, but criminals don’t exactly follow laws, and those who keep and carry firearms for nefarious purposes aren’t going to stop just because the government spontaneously asks them to. So taking the first step in this mission to be more like Australia instantly puts good, law-abiding citizens at an even higher disadvantage to the criminals that prey on them. You have given the bad guys the upper hand here.

My second problem with the Australian model is the complete difference in our cultures. While almost all developed nations are growing racially and ethnically  diverse, I don’t find it wise to compare ourselves with Australia, considering our cultures are completely different. They never had a slave culture or a civil rights movement anywhere near the scale of ours. They don’t have a host of nations to the south whose people flee to our border en masse in search of the American Dream. They also don’t have the tensions that stem from each of these. Australia is not one of the few superpowers of the world. Australia did not create a government of the people, by the people, and for the people that the rest of the world followed as an example, which leads me to my third problem.

My third problem with the Australian model has to do with the origins of our two nations, which have since led to our current statuses on the world’s stage: one of us is a free, sovereign nation; the other is a commonwealth of the English crown. We both know the history of America’s fight for independence from the British, so I’ll refrain from rehashing that story. I will say, however, that the Australian people never needed to defeat the largest military power the world had ever seen in the name of self-governance. Guns weren’t central to that struggle, because Australia never struggled like we did. Australians are subjects, and always have been. We, Americans, are not. You are as sovereign a citizen as I am, and while I think that idea has gotten lost in our collective psyche in Modern America, I take immense pride in it. Some may take my perspective as “American Exceptionalism” and, to a certain extent, I’ll agree with them. I do believe America is exceptional; we started the whole “revolution” and “democracy” thing, and as I said before, one by one the nations we all came from followed suit.

This brings us around to your final critique of my beliefs, which you ironically spend the least amount of words on: the Second Amendment. You believe “the whole goddamn thing goes off the rails” when the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights, an amendment so important that the Founders of the Constitution only thought that the right to free speech was more important, is mentioned in a gun control debate, and, while I know we’ve discussed this in the past, I still find that to be shocking. It enrages me that this is becoming a more widely-held viewpoint. I know you’re smart enough to understand why our forefathers sought to protect the people’s right to be armed – they saw how cruel and oppressive power becomes, and knew that the only way to keep such power in check is for the people to remain a constant threat to that power. I believe Thomas Jefferson put it best in 1825  when he wrote to William Short, “Some are whigs, liberals, democrats, call them what you please. Others are tories, serviles, aristocrats. The latter fear the people, and wish to transfer all power to the higher classes of society; the former consider the people as the safest depository of power in the last resort; they cherish them therefore, and wish to leave in them all the powers to the exercise of which they are competent.” Again, I know you can comprehend why Jefferson saw the dangers of a select few gaining power over the people and wished to give the people a means of keeping their power in check. Why this is such an “off the rails” concept to understand completely befuddles me.

This is the cause I have chosen to fight for. Some choose the abortion fight, others the environment, or foreign policy, etc. I appreciate you bringing other examples of government overreach to my attention, but I’m in the middle of fighting against one right now, and it’s eating away at a fundamental right recognized by the founding document of our country, not granted by the government that runs it. I shouldn’t have to be kept busy fighting to maintain my rights when there are other big fish to fry.

I hope you can now see how my mind works at its core, sans context, and that you’ve come to your own conclusions, instead of trying to correct the conclusions you’ve already come to. Either way, let’s keep doing this, because I too believe it will finally start to get us somewhere.

- Andrew



Trigger Warning

This is just to say, soon I will have a post up from a guest contributor who sits on the opposite side of the fence from me on the issue of gun control. I just wanted to let y'all know ahead of time that I'm not going to let the issue fade away, and that I've found someone who has the patience to explain their point of view to me as best they can, and that they've agreed to let me post that explanation here, in the same forum, on the same platform that I use to espouse the other side on the regular. I hope that isn't lost on you, that I'm not asking them to respond on their own platform, to which I could link, pay lip service to, from which I could selectively quote and rebut as my own argument sees fit. Certain issues need to be treated like this, with equal opportunity given to the litigators of both/all sides, issues that we can't seem to solve as a society. This is one of those. We can't solve it.

Maybe we never will solve it, either, but right now we're not even addressing it. We're sticking to our factions, our talking points, refusing to cede ground, refusing empathy, instead pointing fingers, assigning blame. My friend feels the same as I do in this regard, that we aren't listening to each other with any degree of sincerity, and we have to, we must, if we're to take any action at all. 

I know that one unknown writer's personal blog is not exactly on par with a Middle East peace summit, or the front page of the New York Times. But idea generation has to start somewhere, and that's what this needs, is some new ideas, and I believe my friend has some, and I have some too, and so we're going to talk it out and see what comes of it. I'm not sure when, but hopefully soon. This, again, is just to say that I know some of my friends have recently been personally affected by gun violence, and if you aren't ready for this discussion, I understand completely.

The rest of you better fucking listen up.



Chapter 34

I have the novel planned out to the 34th chapter, now. The 34th chapter, as it stands, is the last chapter of the book. Unfortunately I am still working on chapter 26. And since chapter 26 was a giant pain in my ass, I shelved it and moved on to 27. For 26, I had written a preliminary draft but not gotten to the ending, and I still haven’t, but for 27 I hadn’t written any of it, yet.

28 I have never written on.

29 is near to finished, if I remember correctly. I liked how it came out initially. 

30 hasn’t been written but for some brief notes on the initial idea, not much of which I expect to keep, but it’s a character interaction I’ve been looking forward to and I don’t want to write too much on it ahead of time. 

31 is pretty much done, has been around since the early days and will likely retain much of its original form.

32 is a continuation and culmination of a plot, probably about half written already, the latter half of which is again something I want to experience and focus on intensely when I get to it.

33 has not been written.

34 will I hope be the end. 

Obviously the chapters that have yet to be written need to be written, but even the chapters I think are near complete now may turn out not to be. Because the closer I get to the end, the more I am forced to keep the whole thing in mind, the whole plot, the whole picture, start to finish. It reminds me of sewing. I don’t have a ton of experience with sewing but I did have two years of Home Ec in junior high, and from what I remember, the patterns come in various pieces, which you pin and cut and sew together one by one, and this sleeve might look like a perfectly good sleeve now and so might that one, but once they’re both attached to the shirt they might be as mismatched as a thumb and a finger. And maybe it’s not even the sleeves, maybe the sleeves are perfect but the middle is what’s throwing off the whole perspective. Everything needs remeasured, recut, adjusted for balance, and so in a way the chapters I haven’t written yet are easier because there’s nothing to fix. 

The toughest thing to do is to make the sleeve anyway. To know full well the shirt is a mess but to be willing to complete it a mess, and in so doing make more work for yourself later. Chapter 26 is only the latest to challenge me in this way. I try to let it loose, let it run, and then I find myself somewhere new that feels right, but I don’t know yet how it fits in with the rest. Chapter 26 was one I didn’t think would take long, either. All I had to do was find the end. But now the end seems to be suggesting I might need to readjust my plan for 33, and possibly 31. But it’s trying to be heavier than that, even. It’s already impacted 27 with its gravity, and probably will have a similar effect on 32. And obviously, 34, being the end, will be thematically tied into everything else.

So what’s to be done? I could’ve stopped 26 fourteen pages ago, before I even took this side-venture, which was a gamble anyway but the reason I haven’t dropped it is because I thought it was speaking to one theme and wound up coming back to another. It surprised me. I like being surprised. 

Being surprised, however, doesn’t mean you’ve discovered closure, or even that you’ve discovered a path worth traveling, only that you’ve been made to look in an unexpected direction. It might all be fruitless. It might all need to be toned down, reined in. I can’t imagine these extra fourteen pages will remain fourteen pages, even if I do find an end to the chapter in one or two or seven more pages. It’s going to be hewn. Cut back. 

Aaghhghgh but that’s the problem, you can’t create and edit at the same time, and it’s so so hard to take the long way around, to wander through the forest aimlessly until by luck you reach the other side and can look back on it and see a more direct way through. 

What’s more, school has started again, I’m still working at the golf course, I’m feeling the pressure of having a free weekend now but will be grading all next weekend, plus there’s increased social activity, plus physical therapy for my shoulder once a week, not to mention the at-home physical therapy I’m supposed to be doing. All this pressure, all this pressure! I’m pulling my hair out over here. 

But it feels better already just to complain a little bit.  I know I have a good life, I’m lucky in so many ways that I often won’t allow myself the luxury of moaning about my problems. But I guess everybody has to, sometimes.

Also who am I kidding, there’s going to be a chapter 35. I know there’s something I’m forgetting. Which is better, it’s a better number than 34, it’ll be for the best. 




Say You’re Sorry

I went to the ocean by myself today, because my wife is awesome and agreed to put the free beach parking sticker on my car this year, mainly because when we go together we usually take my car, but also so that I can go on occasion on my days off. I spent a lot of time in the water, because no one else was there to entertain me. The current was not strong, small waves, a good day for floating.

So I floated. 

For about an hour I floated on my back, eyes closed, taking in deep breaths and holding them, ears submerged, hoping to eavesdrop on some passing dolphins. I took turns in imagining myself as a slice of wet bread floating on the surface or just imagining myself as water, for a while at least, then I remembered my decision not to have shoulder surgery and opt for physical therapy instead, of which I have not informed my doctor yet, so I thought I could do some shoulder exercises while I floated there, and I did range-of-motion and some snow angel swimming strokes and amused myself with the difference between where I thought I would be and where I was when I opened my eyes.

Later on I realized since I was holding my breath and closing my eyes anyway I could float face-down, and I did this for about an hour as well, drifting like a corpse in the surf, a little closer to shore this time so I could drag my fingers in the submerged sand, and it occurred to me that this is probably the sensation of birds, who can be buoyed by air, this weightlessness, this rejection of gravity, my body physically incapable of remaining in contact with the soil just by my selection of a certain posture and the will of the fluid surrounding me. Sucked away from the earth, I grabbed handfuls of sediment, to no avail. It reminded me of a book I read in elementary school called Dr. Gravity, in which a doctor invents a potion or treatment that causes those under its influence to rise hundreds of feet in the air and remain there. The whole town moves there, up to the clouds, the houses, everything, and at first everything is blissful, but before long people just stop caring. They lose any drive or ambition and are content with literally just floating along. 

It occurred to me that if anyone were looking on they might think me dead. I imagined a confrontation with a concerned citizen with quick reactions seeing my white bread body bobbing in the surf and rushing out Baywatch-style to wrench me away from Poseidon’s grasp, only to discover angrily that I remained as yet among the living. I imagined apologizing instinctively for worrying them. But even in my imagined scenario I knew I wasn’t really sorry. Just wait ten seconds before you get your Jordans all salty and maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and why are you wearing your Jordans to the beach in the first place, really that one’s on you.  

But I couldn’t imagine not apologizing. I knew I would. I had no remorse in my heart for playing in the ocean the way I felt like playing. But I would apologize for it if anyone took offense. Some would say this is just good etiquette. I tend to think it’s more indicative of the tragic flaw of America.  

I’m not religious anymore, but when I was I was Catholic. One of the tenets of Catholicism is the forgiveness of sins, which is possible through a ritual involving confessing those sins to a priest and receiving a certain sentence, usually an accumulation of prayers to recite plus a promise to God not to repeat the sin, and perhaps a recommendation for behavioral modification for assistance in helping you avoid the sin in the future. This is what made me question my faith in the first place. I didn’t like the idea that I had to tell my sins to someone else, even a representative of God, in order to receive forgiveness. Two main reasons for this, which combined to thump my guilty conscience into submission and get me to back slowly away from Catholicism and religion altogether: First, I was more than aware that priests were just regular people with a collar. My first confession, I told Father Sam about my temper, about how I would get mad at my sisters when we played games and sometimes I yelled and said mean things or hit them or ran to my room and cried if I lost, which I believe came out of my mouth as “Sometimes I get mad at my sisters when we play games.” To which Father Sam raised his eyebrows and said, “That’s it?” We were face to face in the rectory. Alone, but highly visible to each other. I wasn’t prepared for that. On TV you always have a protective screen to at least shield the priest from the hot breathy vapors of your sins, if not add a certain anonymity to the whole affair. He assigned me a certain number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys and I had to admit I didn’t know the Hail Mary, at which he somehow rolled his eyes without moving them and switched all the prayers to Our Fathers.

So Father Sam couldn’t turn off his personality even while standing in as the representative for God. That’s fine. Still my favorite priest ever. In high school the priests at my Catholic school tended not to have much of a personality, for starters, and what’s more, listening to their sermons, I felt more adequately adult, more mature and intelligent, more savvy, more relevant than they were. Like if we’d ever have found ourselves eating at the same restaurant together, I would’ve felt compelled to order for them. Which isn’t to say I felt advanced, or beyond my years. But they all seemed very behind on life, stuck in place from the day they started bible study. And I was supposed to tell them my sins?  How would they even understand the ways that I could sin?

Second reason: they said I had to confess even if I was pleased with my performance since my last confession. If I had modified my behavior to rectify past sinfulness and hadn’t acquired any new bad habits since, to my knowledge, this was no good enough. They said to think of something. We are not perfect creatures. We all sin. You just have to find it, even if it’s a small one. To which I thought, That’s bullshit, and no I did not count that cursing, because I’ve never believed language arts to be sinful. You want me to go in there and make something up? Not that they were wrong, because I certainly could have found something to confess in the month’s time between confessions, but also hypothetically I was right. It was possible, in fact it was more than possible not to sin for a certain amount of time, if you put your mind to it. Just because I never did that didn’t make its possibility any less true.  

Still though, on the whole, I think I prefer the Catholic model to the other varying offshoots of Christianity, all of which I know very little about but I put into two categories in my head, either diluted Catholicism, or Catholicism Plus. With Catholics, if done correct, you have to ask for forgiveness. It’s not automatic. You have to admit your misdeeds, to another human person who will judge you whether they reveal their judgment of you or not (maybe that’s what the screen’s for), and who will judge you more harshly the next time if you don’t shape up. That’s deterrent number one. Number two, the sentencing. Saying a prayer fifty times in a row actually really sucks, and that’s assuming the priest doesn’t come up with more creative punishments or methods of making amends.

How that translates into other forms of Christianity, I can’t say, but I know how it shows up culturally. We prioritize the apology over the admission of the crime. From a very early age. At least in Catholic confessionals, they make you identify the sin. But in the hasty conveyance of morality to our toddlers, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, in fast food restaurants, in malls and grocery stores, “It doesn’t matter. Say you’re sorry.”  

Say it. 

I don’t know enough about other forms of Christianity to be specific, but I bring it up because of Easter and Christmas, and all the church signs I see that try to entice attendance during these two specific occasions during the year. The two-day-per-year Christian crowd, of which there are many, given how full up the parking lots always seem to be on these days, at least at all the churches I’ve ever lived near, would likely fall into this lip service category. How can you be loyal to something twice every 365 days and still call it God?

Even if that’s a gross oversimplification, that is undeniably the message of our culture. Just say you’re sorry. God will forgive you. Consider yourself absolved, and then do it again next time. Manners over modification of behavior. Apologies over empathy. It’s all about appearances. Say one thing, do another.  

I live in the South now, not Texas anymore but the traditional South, the slavery South, where the phenomenon is even more pronounced. People are very nice down here, much more so than the miserable bastards in the Midwest, and I suspect they always have been, exceedingly cordial and polite at the dinner table and then brandishing the whip in the fields. My wife’s first trip through Tennessee, I don’t remember what happened at a gas station but evidently people thought she needed help with something and like four people offered, on the spot, men and women. And these are same people who voted in a pussy grabber.  

(Sidebar: I’m trying not to think about this upcoming “Peace Summit” with North Korea, because Trump is such a pronounced liar, so ingrained, he seems to only tell the truth through its opposite. So when he says he wants to make peace, I get very very nervous. All I can hear is “I’m about to go piss off an unstable dictator—on purpose—to start a war. “)

My kids will not apologize if they aren’t sorry. They will not be taught to get out of an uncomfortable situation by lying. I’d rather bring them up Catholic than bring them up two-faced. They will know empathy first, manners a distant second. And they can do the dead man float in the ocean as much as they damn well please. 

I mean, I hope they don’t, because I would freak the hell out. 



Inherently Dangerous

I’m feeling selfish today because I want to work on my own personal pet project of a novel instead of solving all the problems in the world I can’t stop thinking about even as I work my mindless job, even as I try to fall asleep, and I have become a pro-fessional at shutting down my mind to fall asleep. But I think it’s the right decision. It’s the only self-generated project I’ve got going, and it’s got no hope to solve the world’s problems, but all my solutions I keep obsessing over which seem so obvious to me at midnight, they are all responses, and responses cannot work because people don’t listen to them, because they will never matter as much as the opinion you’ve already settled on before you hear the rebuttals. I have a very intelligent friend who disagrees with me whole-heartedly about all the shootings and gun control and I know he’s smart enough to understand what I want to tell him, what I’ve already told him, but he still disagrees with me. On individual facts, we can agree, but the interpretation of them we cannot, and then I see him gravitate back to the easier to digest talking points in conservative memes that provide the familiar comfort of his previously established world views, and he’ll parrot these and say “hear hear” without vetting these sources, without demanding the facts I know him to otherwise require, and I don’t know why he can turn a blind eye to the authors of articles or the biased publications these articles show up in or even to facts, basic facts like what is more “inherently dangerous,” a gun or a book, a gun or an idea.

It’s guns, btw. I have tried to kill with my ideas before, even while in the same room with my intended victim. Have yet to succeeed.  Haven’t tried to kill anyone with a book, though, so I guess the jury’s still out on that one for me.

He’s libertarian, which frees him from the constraints of the two major parties and their drawbacks and inconsistencies, much in the way that I only consider myself a democrat because the republicans are in power now and I don’t have the luxury of the allure of Bernie and democratic socialism.  The libertarians are more than happy to quarrel with the left, however, even if they can conveniently set themselves aside from the politics of the right, of the people they helped vote into power. He posted a video today, my friend, that was very helpful in explaining the libertarian point of view on guns. The video’s author disinvited the radical left to coming up with solutions for the school shooting epidemic, because their solution is bigger government, more regulation. He takes on the favorite talking points of gun control advocates and dismantles them with quick rebuttals that can be boiled down to “I know the facts and the facts don’t support you.” He doesn’t claim to know the answer to school shootings, but he’s tired of getting blamed for them. In another video he says every gun owner would immediately give up their guns if they knew it would save even one child, but the violence is not the fault of the prevalence of guns and getting rid of guns would have no effect on these murders and murder rates. 

According to other videos, he says this is the best answer to decreasing gun violence:  

 YouTube video  here , the other video is on  Facebook .  

YouTube video here, the other video is on Facebook.  

Assume the gun is loaded. Be mindful of the muzzle’s direction. Don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot. Be aware not only of your target but also what’s behind it. And another one not in the bullet points listed on-screen: prohibit minors from having access to your guns. That last one could’ve helped in Sante Fe, Texas, but it would’ve been no use in Parkland, and I think the shooters in both cases otherwise assumed the guns were loaded, that they were mindful of the direction they pointed the muzzle, that their finger was not accidentally pulling the trigger, that they knew their targets and the collateral damage possibly lurking behind.

I want everyone to watch these videos. I want them to be able to identify the gaps in logic.  He says the Australia gun law argument makes no sense (no mass shootings since the restrictions enacted on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in 1996, in response to the Port Arthur massacre [35 dead]) because there was a mass shooting in Australia in 2011 (Hectorville, 3 dead). He doesn’t mention the Monash University shooting in 2002 which killed two, or the two shootings in 2014 which killed five and three, respectively (or the one that occurred just a few days ago, May 11, 2018, in Osmington, six family members murdered and a suicide), but you get his point. Their gun laws did not stop these shootings. And what’s more, Australia’s population is barely a 13th of the United States, and since the US has a gun for every person, and Australians would have to gather five people to share even one gun, that would mean there should be approximately 65 times more mass shootings here, but there’s not! Which means actually we’re being much SAFER with our guns. (He doesn’t say 65 times, by the way, but he does bring up the population and gun disparity, and that’s the resulting math that’s implied by his logic.) 

Except, by my figures, that’s four mass shootings in Australia in over twenty years, if we count a mass shooting as more than one death by gunshot. The US tends to categorize mass shootings as four or more deaths, however, because if we went with broader definition—say, four victims shot, not necessarily killed—there would statistically be a mass shooting somewhere in the country every single day, and that’s just too depressing to think about. So, going with the four or more killed definition, there have been 361 mass shootings in the US since 1996, which is actually more than the 65 times threshold of about 260 represented by Australia’s numbers (65 times the four occurrences of multiple victim homicides via firearm, IF we are counting all four multiple-victims occurrences and not just the single occurrence with four or more victims).

Oh, I’m sorry, did I say 1996? That’s actual 361 since 2006. And only up through December 31, 2017. So, not counting any data from 2018, or anything before December 31, 2005.  (They only update these figures at the end of each calendar year, over at USA Today, because they’re a newspaper and they just don’t have the kind of budget to go real-time with it, you know?)

So, at least attempting to work with the same definitions, between 2006 and 2017, there was one mass shooting in Australia and 361 in the United States. Which is more than 65 times, because it’s 361 times, and 361 is bigger than 65. In fact it’s over five times bigger. If I want to take the comparison back to 1996, when the now famous anti-gun law was enacted in Australia, the comparison gets a little more difficult, because again there are just too many episodes of mass gun violence in the US to keep track of, but the Washington Post tries to do so by narrowing their definition of a mass shooting to exclude familial, single household executions—i.e. no private household-type mass murders, or gang-related mass murders, only the scarier public kind—and they come up with 152 of these public shootings of four or more murdered victims, as of today, May 22, 2018. Which would put the comparison at 152 to 0. Which is inifinity times more public mass shootings, because that Australian 2014 mass shooting of five victims was a single-family murder-suicide, so it wouldn’t be included in the Washington Post’s calculations. 

And once again, infinity is more than 65, because it’s infinity. 

The point being: according to the perspective of libertarians as represented in this video, and to my friend who said he’s been looking for a long time for this expression of his views and “couldn’t have said it better” himself, Australia’s gun restrictions did not solve mass shootings, that restricting guns is not the answer, and that people who suggest this restriction are not allowed to participate in coming up with the real solution, whatever that may turn out to be. That because we have as many guns as we do humans in this country, we are actually a lot safer from guns than Australians are, percentage-wise.

But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it. Even if the math would back up that claim (and, no, it doesn’t, see above), I don’t care about being safer percentage-wise, I want to be safer, period.  The man in the video says guns don’t matter because murder rates overall are about the same. That we would know these things if we knew how to do a little research. Just an internet search away, he says. I may not have mastered the Google, but my research says in Australia the murder rate is about 1/100,000, and in the US it’s about 5/100,000, which looks remarkably similar to how five people in Australia would have to share one gun, but in the US all five get their own. Which isn’t directly correlating evidence, I know that, but you can’t say guns aren’t a factor if you’re using the factor of five times more guns per person to even out those murder rates.

More guns equals more deaths by guns. It could not be more plain to me, and yet I cannot convince even the smartest of my conservative friends otherwise. 

And then you add in the second amendment debate and the whole goddamn thing goes off the rails. To have the audacity to claim we need the right to own guns to protect ourselves from government tyranny, while the current administration attacks right after rightfreedom after freedom on the march towards fascism, and you who have tasked yourselves as the watchdogs of big government say nothing? Do nothing?

But these are all responses, and my responses will not sway any of those who’ve already made up their minds. Because it’s like Inception, I’ve realized. You can’t be seen as responsible for planting an idea, or the idea gets rejected. The mind has to come up with the idea on its own for it to take root and grow. So, if I want you think the way I think, to see what I see, I am far better off showing you how my mind works at its core, sans context, and letting you come to your own conclusions, instead of trying to correct the conclusions you’ve already come to.

I’ll just save my breath and get back to my novel.  It’s not about guns, not even a little bit. I hope you will read it, when it’s finished. And then you can write one and I’ll read yours and maybe that will finally start to get us somewhere. In the meantime, school is out for the summer, which hopefully means I’ll get to hold off on my next gun rant until fall.



I Work At a Golf Course

As it turns out, I really like Frightened Rabbit. Their singer just died. Or I guess the guy who was the band, which became a band with more people in it, and those remaining people are tweeting about mental health awareness. Good gravy I hate Twitter. It's extremely unsettling how this happens, how what happens, how you discover these dead artists after they're dead, over and over again, how you discover over and over again how much your own personal emotional patterns overlay and complement those of the terminally suicidal, how, when you're listening to their music for the first time and you are reading an article that quotes a song lyric, your eyes find the lyric at the exact moment it plays out loud the very first time to your virgin ears. This has happened to me numerous multiple times. Sometimes it's difficult to believe I'm not in the Truman Show.

And it starts to rain the exact moment you decide to take the dogs for a walk. How is this not scripted.

I don't know how to acquire information reliably anymore. I can determine that perhaps up to sixty Palestinians died and some 1000+ (!!) were injured by the firing of bullets from guns during protests at the Gaza border, according to reports from various sources. But I don't know how, and I don't know why. My liberal friends are firing off memes about it being in direct response to Trump's a-hole decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, saying things like this was a peaceful protest like the Parkland-inspired student protests or the Women's March, and these Israeli troops mowed them down indiscriminately. Israel says the violence was justifiable in the protection of their borders, and that 28 of the dead were identified as having demonstrable ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, that they had "documented terror background[s]." And the US is apparently blocking a UN investigation into the violence, saying things like, if anything, Israel showed restraint in ONLY killing sixty. Because I live in just the worst country. We're just, the worst.

It's not that I don't trust my liberal friends anymore, but I just don't think they have the kind of time to research and vet their sources. I don't have that kind of time, and I work at a golf course. These people have like career-type jobs and kids and diseases and real actual problems that take up a lot more time than my problems and so how could they possibly know for sure what information they're passing along is true and accurate. We live in a world where an organization called Human Rights Watch sounds like a biased liberal Facebook group, but they have been around since 1978, and they have somebody on staff whose job title is UN Director, which as far as I can tell isn't a sanctioned UN position but merely their in-house title for the guy who gives their official responses to UN happenings, so yes, perhaps they have a liberal bent but are they biased? Do they lack facts to back up their opinions? This UN guy they have, he worked for Reuters literally at the UN headquarters in New York for at least five years, he's a journalist who if nothing else probably for years drank coffee on the same park benches as the people who have the best access to all of the facts.

So can I trust Human Rights Watch? This international, non-governmental organization? I have no idea. They've been criticized for being too ingrained with US foreign policy, for not accurately reporting on human rights violations by relying too much on civilian eye-witness accounts and discounting military or government accounts, for being biased against Israel, for being biased for Israel, you name it. Their take on the recent Gaza conflict is that it was a "calculated killing of protestors" and that there should be a UN investigation, and that the US is being hypocritical in blocking this investigation against Israel when they're calling for investigation and intervention in Syria and Myanmar. That all sounds rational, logical to me, but I have to hesitate before I believe it. I just want to know why these people died. I just want access to the facts.

I spent about three hours today picking golf balls from the driving range, cleaning them, putting them into bags three by three, returning them to the clubhouse to be purchased and dumped and whacked back out onto the range again. Golf balls are approximately the exact size of those what's-it-called, those zen ringy balls that were popular for a hot moment in the early 2000s. They have different balls for the driving range than for regular play, supposedly they're softer, more absorbent of force and thus don't travel as far, are not as easily lost, are more easily controlled, less prone to being launched over the protective netting and into traffic. There are also balls that are labeled for use by women, but for the life of me I can't figure out what this is supposed to mean. Are they... easier? Smaller, to travel further, or larger to make better contact? Heavier for more control, lighter for more distance? Harder for better transference of kinetic energy from club to ball? Softer so they're easier to add spin? Is it just marketing, is it all marketing, is everything marketing?

I work at a golf course because I'm an English teacher who doesn't know if he'll be teaching in the fall and even if I am it's not for enough money, so I need a summer job to make ends meet, and I'm so sick of customer service that I opted for working outside, in the sun, in the fresh air, performing rote, near mindless physical labor for barely above minimum wage. I have two master's degrees and I'm answering to more experienced high school students, or I would if they had any semblance of responsibility or ambition, but they are providing me with some clarity. They forget to do the basic tasks of the job more often than one would think would be continually employable, and they revel in minor rebellious acts like chewing tobacco and hitting driving range balls up the number one fairway, and their time is worth the same as my time. They have access to the same facts that I have access to. They are almost all there for the free golf. It costs $44 to play 18 holes on this course. I don't spend that much per day to feed myself, my wife, and my four pets combined, usually. That's a lot of money for a few hours of entertainment. And I get to do it for free. When I applied for the job they asked me two questions. Will you show up to work, and do you golf. Because they knew the job doesn't pay. Mostly what they pay you in is golf.

Today after work I stopped at Goodwill and I found a golf bag for $10 and three irons and a putter, which means I now have seven clubs in total, which is more than enough. Now I can golf free, too. Collect all my benefits, instead of just the perks of next to zero customer interaction and the whiling away of hours spinning golf balls in my hand.